BUFFALO, NY--Six major cancer centers in the tri-state area of Western New York, Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio have joined forces to create a regional consortium to address clinical and scientific issues related to immunotherapy and other biological strategies in the treatment of cancer.
"The need to join forces is clear, to take advantage of the scientific strengths at each institution and improve the pace of our research efforts," said Michael T. Lotze, MD, chief of Surgical Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, at the first meeting of the Regional Cancer Center Consortium for Biological Therapy of Cancer, hosted by Roswell Park Cancer Institute. [For reports from this meeting, see pages 7, 30, and 32.]
Dr. Lotze, one of the co-organizers of the meeting, said that Roswell Park was chosen for the first meeting of the consortium to honor its 100th anniversary as the worlds first cancer center and a leader in the fight against cancer.
He noted that "the close proximity of our centers means that we can work together for the patients in this region; enhance opportunities for scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and students; and combine efforts to create protocols to provide our patients with state-of-the-art treatment."
Elizabeth A. Repasky, PhD, of Roswell Parks Department of Immunology and a co-organizer of the meeting, said that "immunotherapy is growing in importance, and the co-organizers of this consortium are keenly interested in its more rapid and effective application for patient treatment in our region of the country. We felt that as a group we could better collect and analyze laboratory data and improve clinical trials offered for our patients if we cooperated."
Dr. Repasky expects that the consortium members (see table on page 10) will be able to develop new protocols to be offered at all six sites, so that they can offer patients the newest clinical trials without their having to travel all over the region. Researchers will benefit by being able to "accrue data more rapidly about the value of an individual approach and expedite the translation of observations in the laboratory to the clinic," she said.
Dr. Lotze noted that recent changes in funding for the National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health in the proposed Clinton Administration budget will encourage these types of consortiums. "New funding is now available. The Clinton budget will almost double the cancer research budget over the next 5 years. This is the biggest change that has occurred since the Cancer Act of 1971," he said.
Now, he added, the consortium will have an opportunity to fund research and "bring biological therapy to the table as partners with those delivering radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy."
The Consortium plans to coordinate one large meeting each year for researchers and clinicians to work in collaboration and possibly have smaller, focused sessions throughout the year to develop and assign clinical trials.
The annual meeting will rotate through the member institutions, with the next meeting tentatively scheduled for February 1999, co-organized by Joseph Rosenblatt, MD, at the University of Rochester Medical Center.